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Mike Leach agrees to contract extension amid rumors, keeping Washington State coach in Pullman through 2024 season

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 5, 2019

Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach was all smiles before the start of last Friday’s Apple Cup  at Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Washington State Cougars head coach Mike Leach was all smiles before the start of last Friday’s Apple Cup at Husky Stadium in Seattle. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Three days after a social media spoof indicated Mike Leach had accepted a position at Ole Miss, Washington State’s athletic department unveiled a graphic of its eighth-year head coach – the text reading “Extended through 2024.”

No hoax this time.

Despite reports stating he’d met with administrators from Arkansas earlier in the week about the Razorbacks’ coaching vacancy, Leach presumably hopped off the coaching carousel Thursday morning, agreeing in principle to a contract extension that will keep the offensive guru in Pullman through the 2024 football season.

Leach’s extension adds a fifth year to what was previously a four-year deal, but the financial terms of his contract essentially go unchanged. The coach’s yearly compensation will still be $4 million, and Leach will earn a one-time retention bonus of $750,000 if he stays in Pullman through the 2020 football season.

“Mike Leach has established, and continued, a culture of success at Washington State, both academically and athletically, that few have matched,” WSU Director of Athletics Pat Chun said in a school release. “He has returned WSU to national prominence, is one of the top football coaches in the nation, and we are fortunate to have him leading our program.”

While the extension does not necessarily prevent Leach from leaving for another coaching position, it implies he’s committed to the Cougars for at least another season. Leach and WSU negotiated a similar extension last January – when former defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys was also extended – and the coach is essentially on a five-year rolling deal until the school decides not to re-extend his contract.

Leach nearly left WSU for Tennessee two seasons ago. Cougars fans have been kept on their toes the past few weeks as Leach was named as a potential candidate for a number of Power Five jobs in the South, including Arkansas. FootballScoop.com reported Leach had spoken with the Razorbacks about their coaching vacancy, and USA Today’s Dan Wolken confirmed Arkansas interviewed Leach for the position.

Leach was also considered an outside candidate for the job at Ole Miss after the Rebels fired Matt Luke. A fake but somewhat believable Twitter account duped many into thinking Leach had accepted a job in Oxford. Within 20 minutes, however, it was learned the account was fake.

WSU fans can breathe easy knowing the team’s impending bowl game likely will not be Leach’s last with the Cougars. Leach, whose 55 wins rank third all-time at WSU behind Babe Hollingbery (93) and Mike Price (83), clinched a program-record fourth straight bowl berth for the Cougars in 2018. He extended the streak this year, leading the Pac-12 North program to a 6-6 mark in the regular season.

Leach has guided WSU to 43 wins in the last five seasons. The Cougars were in the Pac-12 championship picture in 2016, 2017 and 2018 up until the final week of the regular season.

“We are excited about going to our fifth straight bowl game and look forward to another exciting season in 2020,” Leach said in the release. “Go Cougs!”

Recognized as a co-author of the Air Raid offense, Leach has also been responsible for a few of the most prolific quarterbacks in school and Pac-12 history. Two years ago Luke Falk broke the conference record for career passing yards with 14,481. Last season Falk’s successor, Gardner Minshew, broke the mark for single-season passing yards (4,779) only to be topped by 2019 starter Anthony Gordon, who recently became the first Pac-12 QB to throw for 5,000 in a single season. Gordon also broke the Pac-12 record for single-season touchdowns and enters the bowl game with 45.

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